Tag Archives: Beatles

Shut the Front Door…There’s a Draft in Here!

Merriam-Webster.com lists thirteen definitions for the word draft.

Before I looked, I would have been hard pressed to come up with five or six. I mean who knew that “the force required to pull a plow or other implement” is called the draft?

Not me.

Plow pulling aside…In today’s post we will be focusing on definition 5-C – “a preliminary sketch, outline or version”.

Yes…the first draft, which, according to Ernest Hemingway, is always shit. (He really said it, look it up!).

Many first-time authors have trouble accepting this particular truth, but the smart ones come to terms with it quickly. It’s a matter of survival, really. Either you accept that your first draft is nothing more than a glorified outline or you’ll sit around wondering why nobody is reading it.

The trick for authors, at every level, is getting the draft from trash to smash.

Some of you have heard my process before – if you haven’t you can read about it here.

If you don’t know my process – and you didn’t click the link to read about it –  it involves a group of trusted beta readers who tell me, in their opinion, whether my latest work is any good or not – and why.

Naturally, without the first draft there is no novel, so the initial writing of the story is fairly important, but I am of the opinion that the beta-reading phase is the make-it or break-it part of the operation.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, this post is my annual announcement of the completion of another first draft.

My latest work is entitled 24 Minutes, and it is a vast departure from anything I have written before.

Without giving too much away, there is no Ike, no beach-side caper, no picturesque scenes along the ocean and no (or at least very little) humor.

I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of happened.

For the sake of clarity…I didn’t drift over to writing sci-fi, fantasy, or chic-lit (not that there’s anything wrong with any of them). 24 Minutes is still a crime-fiction story, but it has nothing in common with my previous nine novels (except for the “crime” part). The story revolves around a group of people trying to survive a situation most of us couldn’t even comprehend – and that’s as much of a spoiler I’m going to give you.

To be honest – writing something so different was, for me, a bit intimidating.

We can all identify with the secure feeling from always doing the thing we’re most comfortable with, but as a good friend once told me – life begins outside your comfort zone.

Several times during the course of creating this story I told myself “if you stop now, you can still write an Ike story and have it released before Christmas.”  For better or worse, I didn’t give in to that temptation. I kept going because, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I felt that this story was overdue. It has needed to be written for several years, by anybody. I just happened to be the one to do it.

Now it’s in the hands of my beta readers, and the nervousness is coming back.

I feel a little like Marty McFly… “What if they say I’m no good?”…but I’m a bit thick headed, so I’ll move forward, release it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

I mean, even The Beatles had a couple of songs they probably wished they hadn’t released.

Naturally, I hope it is well-received, but what’s the worst that can happen? People don’t like it and I go back to writing Ike stories. I don’t have a problem with that.

In the meantime, the dice have been rolled on 24 Minutes…let’s hope it isn’t crap!

 

As always – thank you for reading

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The Johnny Bravo Protocol and How #TheBeatles Ruined Music

It’s practically common knowledge that when Brian Epstein took over as the manger for the Beatles they were, at least by all appearances, four hoodlums from Liverpool with enough potential for five bands.

hoodlums Desperate for competent management and enticed by even the most remote chance at stardom, the Fabs agreed to Epstein’s conditions…one of which was an overall image makeover.

Hence the matching suits, haircuts, etc.

hoodlums 2

Epstein knew, way back then, that despite the overwhelming talent pool in the band, he would have a much easier time selling them if they didn’t look like teddy-boys (one of the first classifications of young men whose looks and behavior had a tendency to frighten the older generation).

He was right of course, and the rest, as they say, is history.

made over 2

made over

By the time Epstein died the boys were the biggest performing group on the planet, they had already ditched the “mop-top” look and were moving into their own individual looks – and it didn’t matter because by that time they could have recorded themselves singing in the shower and sold a million copies.

hippies

You’re probably wondering if I have a point to this little history lesson…I do, even if it makes me sound like an old man.

It’s probably appropriate that I sound like an old man, because the entire impetus for this post came as a result of me being couch-bound with a bad back…or as the old joke goes…a weak back.

So I turned my TV on this morning and before I could switch over to my DVR, and the most recent episode of Hell on Wheels, I was greeted with a morning talk show host introducing a new band which, according to his teleprompter, was the new up-and-coming thing.

I figured…I love music so what the hell, let’s see what this band is about.

The name of the band was R5, and let me save you the trouble…unless you’re a twelve-old-girl or a housewife striving to look cool for the friends of your twelve-year-old daughter…just don’t bother.

I hate using the saying five minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but in this case I am going to make an exception.

Visually, this “band” looked like the unwanted love child of Prince and The Goo Goo Dolls. As for their sound…it can only be described as if somebody found an unreleased out take by the Bay City Rollers and tried to recreate it in the style of Hanson.

The drummer looked like he wasn’t sure which song they were playing. I would bet that the bass player’s bedroom is wall-to-wall mirrors. As he sang, I could see the lead singer mentally calculating his chances of getting laid at any time in the near future. The lead guitar player looked oddly out of place, in that he actually seemed like a talented musician – hopefully he’ll come to his senses and leave this abomination before any chances of ever being taken seriously as a musician go down the toilet. And then there was the keyboard player…an attractive girl obviously included to keep the band from being pigeonholed as a boy-band.

damn kids

It was, I suppose, the natural progression of The Brian Epstein Theory – looks will sell before talent.

It is also a depressing commentary on the music industry.

I use the word industry rather than business because this band is a perfect example of the definition of the word – economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods.

When I see bands like this all I can think of is some Donald Trump wannabe trolling the internet for kids who can, even marginally, sing, dance or play an instrument so he can package them, promote them, make a million dollars off of them and then move on to the next big thing.

Back in my day (I told you I was an old man!) bands had to compete with each other musically…these kids today – all they need to do is have the right look, throw a video up on YouTube and wait for it to be seen the right person. Don’t believe me…please see prosecution Exhibit A – Justin Bieber.

Actual musical talent not required.

As long as there are pre-pubescent girls with cash, the Johnny Bravo Protocol will lead to huge profits every time.

The sad truth is that, despite whatever minimal musical talent these kids have, their musical future can probably be charted in months rather than years.

I realize, of course, that comparing these poor kids to the Beatles is grossly unfair. Comparing any band, at any level to the Beatles is unfair for that matter, but it seems to me that, since the inception of the music video (something else pioneered by The Beatles ) the music business has deteriorated to a point where it is no longer about the music – it’s about the look.

Thanks for nothing MTV.

mtv sucks

It’s a cruel irony that the greatest band ever to make music started a chain reaction that would lead to, what seems to be, the inevitable demise of good music.

End rant.

As always – thank you for reading

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What Skeletons are in Your Musical Closet?

I was raised on rock and roll.

Being born in 1960, and having four older brothers who were already teenagers, well on their way to becoming full-blown hippies, my musical education began while my peers were still enjoying the tune played by their jack-in-the-box.

I was the only kid in my third-grade class to know who Jimi Hendrix was.  hendrix woodstock

I had trouble understanding why the rest of my friends didn’t know about Woodstock, and I could sing Born on the Bayou like nobody’s business (today, not so much).

It’s safe to say that my taste in music is predominantly rock and roll…or classic rock if you want to be more specific, but as I grew older my tastes expanded. In my early twenties I discovered the blues (which would also include soul and R&B). As I approached thirty I took a liking to jazz and classical and during my forties I got into country. rock and roll

I can honestly say that I at least try to appreciate all forms of music to some degree.

I’m not a really big fan of rap, mostly because I think it is often inspired by anger, hatred and violence – three things for which I have no use in my life. Even still, there are some examples of rap that I do appreciate and enjoy.

Disco…since dancing and the whole nightclub scene was never really high on my list of favorite things, I never had much use for it, but again, I have developed a taste for a small sampling of disco songs.

I also enjoy some good funk.

airplane disco

So, with all that being said, there is another category of music I think we all share…something that goes beyond “like and dislike.”

Each of us has music we like, and we’re usually not ashamed to talk about it. Likewise music we dislike, and these we are usually less ashamed to advertise.

There is a third category…the one we keep to ourselves…the one we refuse to acknowledge…the one we hope nobody finds out about.

I call it “skeleton music” – as in the skeleton(s) in your musical closet.

teach them to dance

A friend of mine is a huge metal fan, which is not only to say he is a fan in a huge way, but also that he is a huge guy. To look at him you’d think he would just as soon kick your puppy as look at you (he wouldn’t, but he looks like he would). Somehow, during a recent conversation, he revealed to me that he loves Bon Jovi. He even told me a story about him standing in line at Dunkin Donuts singing a Bon Jovi song out loud while he scanned the menu…drawing some pretty interesting looks from the other patrons.

Yet he doesn’t talk openly about his “secret affair” with Jon and the boys…

Why?

I don’t know, but to paraphrase the famous Life cereal commercial – “I’m not gonna ask him – you ask him.”

On a nine hour road trip with some friends back in the early 90s (all guys) we were in a remote part of Pennsylvania where there weren’t many radio stations available, so we were forced to listen to an Easy Listening station.

Imagine our surprise when one of the guys started quietly singing along with Barry Manilow’s I Write the Songs.

After several miles of relentless torment from the rest of us, he finally copped to it (but, not before trying to blame his mother for listening to it so often that the lyrics were embedded in his brain).

“Hey,” he said in his own defense. “I don’t like him, I just think this is a good song.”

A co-worker of mine was born and raised in Nassau. Naturally, being from the islands his musical tastes lean heavily toward reggae with a healthy scattering of R&B and rap. He also has a fondness for 80s synth-pop.

One day a few of us were having a discussion about old time TV shows when somebody mentioned Hee-Haw. My island-native friend’s brain wasn’t fast enough to censor his own response…he blurted his love for the music on the show and even confessed to begging his parents to buy him a banjo when he was eight-years-old. (They didn’t, but if they had he would have been a pioneer of the rasta-billy scene.)

hee haw

When he saw the looks on our faces (mostly stunned confusion) he laughed and tried to pull the old “just kidding” defense – unsuccessfully.

They say confession is good for the soul, so here goes…

Despite my love of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Willie Dixon, Miles Davis, Dwight Yoakam and Mozart…when I’m alone in the car I will crank the hell out of an ABBA song (until I get to a stop light).

abba

There, I said it.

I’m out.

Laugh if you will – but they have some great songs! (I even attended a live performance of Mama-Mia in Rhode Island and was blown away!)

So what are the skeletons in your musical closet?

Come on – you can share it with us, we’re all friends here…

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Fifty Shades of Grey is Art – Whether You Like It or Not

Before we get to today’s topic please take a couple of minutes to watch this video of an Australian movie critic’s review of the movie adaptation of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

critic

Well – this is embarrassing…the review has been taken down because of copyright issues. I’m sorry about that.

In short – she trashed it. According to her there was not a single redeeming quality to be found in the movie. She called it “domestic violence dressed up as erotica” and several other negative things. She even went as far as to say that her husband did not get lucky after the movie because (I’m paraphrasing) it left her anything but in the mood.

Agree? Disagree? Don’t care?

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have never read any of the Fifty Shades novels, nor have I seen the movie…and barring a frontal lobotomy, I never will.

50 shadesThat being said…let’s talk about taste.

A wise man once said “Opinions are like assholes…everybody has one, and everybody thinks everybody else’s stinks.”

I posted the above video (when it could actually be seen) on my facebook page recently and, within minutes, I had a nice little string of comments – some agreeing with the critic and some accusing her of having her head where her opinion is.

I’m not picking on Fifty Shades (even though it was originally written as fan fiction for the Twilight saga), I chose it specifically because it has an immediate polarizing effect whenever it comes up in conversation, so I figured it would be a good example for my point…

Book(s) or movie…it doesn’t matter…mention Fifty Shades of Grey and you’ll have a debate raging in no time. Not just your garden variety debate either…you’ll have a full-blown free-for-all with one side saying it’s awesome, another side saying it’s trash, the third side will tear it up for the way it objectifies women and there will even be a side complaining that the author didn’t properly research the whole BDSM scene before writing about it.

debate

Men, women, young, old – Fifty Shades gets ‘em hot…and not in a good way.

But is it good?

Is it trash?

Is it a poor excuse for erotica?

Is it a brilliantly played card by the author to cash in on horny housewives?

Relax…those are all trick questions.

The answer is to each one of them is Yes…and No

When it comes to our taste in art there are no right, or wrong, answers. Good taste and bad taste are totally arbitrary concepts. Art appeals to each of us in a different way, for different reasons. The world would be extremely boring if everybody liked the exact same kind of music, movies, paintings and books.

I think we need to amend the list of taboo discussion topics…Religion, Politics, Sex and Art.

Call it what you will…but Fifty Shades is art.

That’s right, I said it. It’s art. art

You couldn’t pay me to read it and I’d rather pour bleach in my eyes than watch the movie…

…but, love it or hate it, it’s art, and the thing that makes it art is the fact that we can’t come to an all-encompassing opinion about its quality (or lack thereof).

It’s the difference between art and science.

If I say “Jaws is the best movie ever made” there will be people who agree with me and people who disagree with me, and with varying degrees of intensity.

Now if I say “The sum of the squares of the two legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.” Nobody can disagree with me – because it’s science.

pythagorean theorum

A fact is a fact is a fact…but an opinion is, well, we’ve already covered that.

Whether you’re talking about books, music, movies, paintings or interpretive dance – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The interesting thing, to me anyway, is how defensive some people get.

I’ve seen people defend their favorite artist with more ferocity than they would their own children. I remember once, in high school, when I wanted to pound a classmate six ways from Sunday for having the audacity to say that Kiss was a better band than The Beatles.

beatles

I kid you not…to this day I’m still amazed at the self-restraint I was able to muster in the face of such blasphemy.

But, I digress…

I imagine the first art critic made his debut in a cave in France, and there was probably more than one Neanderthal there with their leopard skin wrap in a twist over his review. Who knows…it may have been the reason for the first war, or at least the first rumble.

critics

Since then there has been no shortage of people standing by to tell us why something is good or bad—and an equally ample supply of folks willing to let everyone know how wrong the dingbats in the first group are.

It’s funny how people will call a reviewer all sorts of names when said reviewer takes an opposing stance on a particular work of art, but those same people, when trying to decide which movie to see, will say “oh, let’s watch that one….they say it’s really good.”

Who says it’s really good?

Probably the same guy you called a moron last week because he panned Fifty Shades.

The impetus for this entire post, believe it or not, was a conversation with a fellow author about book reviews. We authors ask (more like beg) readers to post reviews knowing that it’s only a matter of time until somebody trashes our book.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but you have to take the good with the bad. The trick to dealing with it is to remember that it’s all a matter of taste.

So, the bottom line is, whether you’re an artist or an art aficionado, screw the critics, because art appreciation it is not a matter of black and white…

…it’s all about shades of grey.

face palm

(come on – tell me you didn’t see that coming!!)

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Big News! I’m Going to be Interviewing That Guy! (you know…that guy)

Imagine you’re on Jeopardy… Final Jeopardy

The final Jeopardy category is “Entertainers” and you’re feeling pretty confident so you wager the whole enchilada.

And the answer is: The man who played drums for Johnny Rivers, Trini Lopez, Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, Bob Dylan and The Band?

You should know this, but… I don't know

He has also been in 30 movies including Total Recall, Tin Cup, Vacation and Sling Blade.

You really should know this…

He has appeared in almost 40 television series such as M*A*S*H, Baywatch and Northern Exposure.

He’s had recurring roles in Home Improvement and Justified.

This should be easy…

Not only has he been in dozens of TV commercials…one of his commercials holds the record as the longest running commercial in television history.

The music starts playing and you start sweating as you draw a complete blank.

You’d think with a resume like that he’d be a household name.

Aaaannnnd – time’s up.

The name we were looking for is Mickey Jones.

Mickey

I see by that look on your face that you think a mistake has been made. Surely with a list of accomplishments so impressive the name would be instantly recognizable.

Mickey Jones?

Wasn’t he one of the Monkees?

Sorry – but there has been no mistake…

Mickey Jones is the quintessential “best kept secret in the entertainment industry.”

Mickey began his musical career in the late 50’s and it ran through 1976, at which time he changed his focus to acting and is still at it.

So now you’re wondering why I’m quizzing you on this guy.

Long story short…I will have the honor of interviewing Mickey on my radio show on Friday, August 1.

Mickey with Ann Margaret

And how did I land an interview with a living legend?

I met Mickey a couple of years ago when he was the celebrity guest on a charity motorcycle run/golf tournament. During the golf tournament I got to drive him around in the cart. For four hours I heard stories about Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Ann Margaret, David Bowie, Tim Allen, and Chevy Chase – and he hadn’t even scratched the surface of his experiences.  Mickey Tool Time

For me – a guy from a small town in Rhode Island – it was an amazing weekend, and best of all, Mickey is a genuinely nice guy.

Not once in two days did this guy act above anybody.

To an outside observer he would have looked like just another biker hanging out with his buddies.

So there you have it…tune in to Tim Baker’s B-Sides, Deep Cuts and Cool Covers on Friday August, 1 at 7:00 p.m. EST and check it out.

The interview will be broadcast live on 97.3 FM – The Surf as well as over the internet on www.flaglerbeachradio.com.

In the meantime – if you have any questions for Mickey, leave them in the comments section below and I’ll try to work them into the spot.

The First Edition

By the way…all of the stories I heard in the golf cart, along with dozens more, can be found in Mickey’s book, appropriately titled That Would Be Me.

I’ve read it – and it’s great.

The title of the book, he told me, comes from his standard reply to people who approach him daily and say “Hey, aren’t you that guy…”

Mickey doesn’t mind that people don’t know him by name – he never did anything for the fame or the glory. He did it because he loved doing it. He always felt like the luckiest guy in the world to have the opportunity to do the things he did!

That Would Be Me

I hope you can tune in, Mickey is always happy to make new friends!

As always – thank you for reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Mickey golf cart

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